Tagged: Charlie Morton

Just like the chance of rain in Pittsburgh, the Pirates are threatening

By a show of hands, how many people check the weather reports first thing in the morning? 

Obviously I can’t see the response, but I’m certain a grand majority of you readers do. On any given night in the Pittsburgh area, rain is a common theme. I have to be sure to check, re-check and for good measure, check yet again on nights I anticipate going to PNC Park. Nearly every night has been at least a 40-60 percent chance of precipitation. In fact, two games I was all set to go to were rained out. 
My luck changed Saturday.
With a 60 percent chance of rain, 32,298 other people joined me in the stands to witness a  6-1 Pirates victory. 
It was my first win at PNC Park this season. 
The Pirates have taken notice as it jump started a three game winning streak, at home nonetheless. Each game has been relatively equivalent to each other with strong starting pitching, quick defense and clutch hitting late in the game. 
Charlie Morton went 7.2 innings with five strikeouts giving up just one run on Saturday.
James McDonald earned a career high eight strikeouts and let up three hits in 6 innings in a 5-4 win on Sunday.
Jeff Karstens continued the trend going 5.2 solid innings allowing just one run to set up a 4-1 victory on Monday. 
While Saturday was the only sure fire contest, Sunday and Monday were come from behind affairs. Ryan Doumit’s three-run blast set the Pirates ahead in the eighth inning in honor of Mothers Day. On Monday, also in the eighth, Neil Walker began a hit parade scoring Xavier Paul on an RBI double. Lyle Overbay followed suit with a RBI double of his own. To conclude the scoring, Doumit came through again. He ripped a double down the right field line scoring Overbay. 
The win put Pittsburgh at 18-17.
Yes, that is indeed a game over .500. 

With cool and electric stuff, two pitchers lead Bucs rotation

Last season, the Pirates pitching staff compiled a 5.00 team earned run average.

A mark that was last in the National League. 
With just one complete game, coming from Paul Maholm, a team whip of 1.491 and only 32 wins coming from starting pitchers the outlook for this year’s pitching staff was equally as dismal.
1567 hits and 784 earned runs later, the Bucs have the 9th best pitching staff in the NL. 
The starters have opened some eyes, especially a rag-tag pair of blooming hurlers.
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     Charlie   
     Morton
      and
Kevin Correia 
Many thought Charlie Morton had overstayed his welcome.
The 27 year old came to Pittsburgh by way of the vastly criticized Nate McLouth to the Braves trade. The pundits felt it was a lot to give up, the Pirates best hitter and past All-Star, for an unproven pitcher who was starting to faze out in the Atlanta organization. He added fuel to that fire with a highly subpar debut in Pittsburgh. It was a wretched start that extended through a handful of seasons. In 2010 he tabulated a 2-12 record and an astronomical 7.57 ERA. 
Today, Ken Rosenthal has called him a Roy Halladay clone. 
What’s the reason for the complete metamorphosis? Well, a tinkering to his windup, now Halladay-esque, has allowed Morton to attack the strike zone with a slower approach. Furthermore, his “stuff” isn’t exactly overwhelming. He doesn’t get a lot of movement on the ball but guides his pitches strategically. It’s been what the fans call “electric.”
Also no stranger to public outcry, Kevin Correia has denounced those heavily critiquing his signing. 
Myself included.
I didn’t feel that a guy ostracized from the Padres rotation could have a positive impact as a Pirates starter. Well, I have enjoyed being proven wrong. 
A 2.48 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 12 strikeouts in four starts are highly positive in my eyes. Heck, I’d say those numbers are dazzling, especially with what Pittsburgh has been used to, in the recent past. 
Saying Correia has been a pleasant surprise would also be an understatement. In Monday’s statement-making 9-3 win over the Reds, Correia carried a one hitter into the 7th and a two hitter into the 9th. He has been demanding on the mound with great control, an issue he has suffered from in the past. When a pitcher can master control of himself and stay cool, he can then focus on his opponent at hand. 
In their last two starts Morton and Corriea picked up complete games, already more than the Pirates’ staff last season. 
Is it too early to say these two starters are the complete package? With at least 20 more starts to come between them, we will find out if their “stuff” will last. 
photocredits: hyzduhq.blogspot.com, linkpittsburgh.com

Brooms at Minute Maid Park

Guys, it is getting ugly. A 10-3 loss to the Astros on Sunday gave the Bucs a six game losing streak. After starting the year at 7-5, I was pumped. Optimism was abound amongst my 21 year old self. The city of Pittsburgh took notice and there was a bandwagon. Even Regis Philbin jumped on board.

 

The good wishes of Regis must have been the kiss of death.

Since then the Pirates have not won a game.

GFJk.jpgI thought that 20-0 debacle would have knocked some sense into the Pirates. Maybe a heralded speech by manager John Russell, a stern talking to by owner Bob Nutting or even some inspirational tactic used by Bill Mazeroski, would set this team ablaze and maybe pick up a few wins in Houston.

It was the complete opposite.

Friday-4-3 loss, Saturday- 5-2 loss, Sunday-10-3 tanking.

This team is depleted. There simply is no talent. Garrett Jones, pictured left, has fallen off the face of the earth.

He is now batting a miniscule .214. He struck out three times this weekend, but did score a meaningless run on Sunday.

 

There is no power souce on this lineup. Lastings Milledge is just a single machine. A major league rightfielder needs to drive the ball deep and over the fence, occasionally. Milledge doesn’t seem to have the wearwithall to do what is needed to be a big hitter in this lineup.

With the lack of power comes the lack of pitching.

Charlie Morton took the hill Sunday. There was speculation that he was going to come out firing. Hes said to have the best “stuff” on the staff. But “stuff” does not go far. It didn’t on Sunday either.

Looking to depress his 16.55 ERA Morton gave up five earned runs over just three innings. He struck out two batter and actually did bring down his ERA to 16.20.

Little triumphs need to be celebrated.

One forthcoming celebration was the recovery of Chris Jakubauskas.

 

jakubauskas.jpgIn the first inning a Lance Berkman line drive blasted off his head. He was down for nearly ten minutes, legs wiggling. I ccould only imagine his pain. It hurt to see the highlights. He was able to stand up and left the field on a stretcher. After spending the night in the hospital he was placed on the DL. Sad thing is, he was just called up from the minors to get the start.

So what team is up next for the Pirates?

 

brewers1.jpgGod help us all.

phot credits- AP/postgazette.com, milwaukeescoop.com

Hoping we leave the losses in San Francisco

Thank you Edgar Renteria.

 

edgar.jpgWithout your error in the top of the ninth inning of Tuesday’s 6-5 loss to the Pirates, the lowly Bucs would not have won a game in the series.

Everything fell apart for the Pirates in the series. Falling apart may not be the best descrption because it seems like this team is what we’re going to get all season.

Charlie Morton got shelled on Wednesday giving up 3 home runs. One of which included an inside the parker by Aubrey Huff. Not the speed king at all but he just lucked out. His deep ball carromed off the base of the wall and took a bounce that would never occur 99 times out of 100. After watching the replay about 25 times I can assure everyone that it was not Garrett Jones’ fault for misplaying it.

Wednesday was the only game where the Bucs manufactured key runs. Aki Iwamura drove in a key run in the ninth inning and hit a home run earlir in the game. Andy LaRoche also helped out with his first home run of the season, a two run shot.

The west coast was not kind to Pittsburgh as we won just two of six. With a 4-5 record the Pirates face the 5-4 Reds. Now it is early in the season but I’m taken the Divisonal race seriously because lets face it. The Pirates are not going to be doing anything this year.

A sweep would be nice. And so would 2 out of 3. COming out of the weekend standing at or above .500 is the goal.

See ya’ll at PNC Park on Friday!

photo credit: zimbio.com

Sour Grapes

grapes.jpgIt has been well documented, by myself, that Nate McLouth is a scum bag.

Harsh words? Maybe he always came off as a nice guy in Pittsburgh, but since his trade last June he has done nothing but trash the team I love.

It hurts to hear one of my favorite players of the last few years go off like that and I agree he does have a point.

Jason Bay too was traded somewhat unexpectedly, he still raves about his playing days in Pittsburgh. I just cannot respect a guy (McLouth) who does not respect the team that brought him up.

 

 

I am bringing this up again because ironically enough the Braves faced the Pirates today. McLouth would not only go up against his former team, but bat against the man he was traded for, pitcher Charlie Morton.

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McLouth wasted no time sending a message. He lit up the scoreboard with a solo homerun to lead off the ball game. The Buccos got the last laugh when they won 7-6 over the Braves.

The win was surely welcomed for a ball club who has lost seven of their last ten. The ‘W’ puts the Pirates at 6-12-1 for the spring training tilt.

With just a mere ten days before Opening Day at beautiful PNC Park, there is something just a little more important along the way. The SWEET 16.

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Tonight West Virginia and Washington do battle at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, NY. The third round of NCAA tournament action tips off. The scene around Morgantown today and all throughout the month of March has been one of anticipation. We want it! A National Championship that is.

The Huskies and Mountaineers are a good matchup in that UDUB instills a run and gun offense while WVU plays lockdown defense. It is an 11th seed (wash.) vs. a 2nd seed (WVU). Many pundits across the country are picking the Huskies for the upset. In fact and ESPN.com poll says 32% are labeling this as the upset of the night.

I respectively disagree.

West Virginia will be without starting point guard Darryl ‘Truck’ Bryant, but that is okay. He has a foot injury and has not been playing his best in the postseason. Joe Mazzulla will step in nicely. He has starting experience and may play the best defense on the team. Mazzulla also has a unique tie-in with the Pirates. He was arrested in PNC Park two summers ago for dissorderly conduct. Not the brightest move and I cannot really stand up for him here but it has shadowed his illustrious Mountaineer career.

joemaz.jpgI hope those of you following the tournament get to tune into this game tonigth at 7:30 on CBS. I hope your brackets are still in tact and that you picked West Virginia to go far. I surely did. Tonight will prove to the country that WVU is for real and that we really will make noise on our way to the Championship game.

photo credits: dontveret.com, i.cdn.turner.com, fromthedugout.com, msnbc.com, cbc.com  

Buccos fall to Braves and bitter McLouth.

Two games in. Two losses

The Pirates lost 2-4 at the hands of Atlanta on Thursday. The Pirates have put up miniscule hits these past two days, recording just four against the Braves. Compared to the five hit by Atlanta, I guess it should not be too big of a talking point.

Two of the Bucs reaching base safely were new additions. Ryan Church and Bobby Crosby.

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Church got the start in right field, but should not be too commended for his effort. He struck out twice while getting his single in three at bats. Over the weekend I called in to a local sports talk station. The guys were talking about off-season accquisitions by the Pirates and failed to mention Church. I chimed in expressing my interest in him and that he could be a central part to our team. They agreed and complimented me, a good feeling considering I am not a frequent caller to these type of shows. I normally just like to sit back and listen. The show was Sunday during an intermission of the USA-Canada hockey game and I was lucky enough to be directed straight to the show. I did watch the game and if anybody else did I hope you were listening intently at the very beginning of the first period. Announcer Doc Emerick dropped a Pirates mention saying “I bet the Pittsburgh Pirates are glued intently to this game.” Perplexed I was, but later found out Emerick is a huge Pirates fan. The New Jersey Devils announcer earned major points in my media heroes book.

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Crosby had a decent day at the plate. With two outs in third he ripped a single through the infield bringing in a run. It was the first tally mark of the afternoon for the Pirates. It was the only noise he would make in his three at bats.

Andy LaRoche hit the first homerun of the Spring Training season for Pittsburgh. His solo shot in the 7th was the only other productive at bat in the contest.

The underlying storyline heading into this ballgame was the matchup against former Pirate centerfielder Nate McLouth.

 

nate.jpgThe 2008 Gold Glove winner was the first Pirate traded in last summer’s infamous fire sale. A shocking move to the city of Pittsburgh and the entire baseball world as McLouth just inked a long term deal with the club in the offseason.

In an interview with Jennifer Langosch Nate announced his disdain for the Pirates organization. Here is a sample of what he said.

It feels good to be in an organization this year that’s going to be in a playoff hunt and not have to talk about ‘We hope years down the road …’ and things like that. It’s good to have that feeling in Spring Training.

It was tough, but I was kind of lucky that I was the first one to get sent out and I didn’t have to deal with it the whole summer. 

If I was in Nate’s position, I certainly would be a bit ticked and I understand what he is saying. At the time I was unsure of the trade, but it can pay big dividends for the Pirates. We got a starting pitcher (Charlie Morton) and a centerfield prospect (Gorkys Hernandez) out of the deal. It makes me happy theat McLouth is not down playing that situation. He truly wanted to be a Pirate and felt betrayed by the organization. Some say it is still a stupid move, but it really was not.

Our outfield now is one of the youngest and most talented in the National League. McLouth refused to move to left field when Andrew McCutchen would be promoted and that may have pre-empted the trade in the first place. McLouth’s numbers also dropped considerably when he was in the ATL.

In 85 games with the Braves, McLouth batted a mediocre .256 and hits 11 home runs, bringing his total up to 20 for the year. His on base percentage dropped a handful of points from the year before and his OPS was .773, the second lowest in his five year career.

It is hard to tell what the short and long term effects of the trade will be. The duo the Pirates recieved from Atlanta has yet to pan out. In sort of a fitting manner, it was Morton that started the game for Pittsburgh. He had control issues walking three batters (including McLouth).

photo credits: piratereport.com, coxnewsweb.com

Baltimore is up next! Bucs-O’s Friday at 7p.m.

  

“They do exist”- Fans flock to PirateFest 2010

 

PirateFest 051.JPGSunday was one of the greatest days of 2010. After an enjoyable night of enjoying the college lifestyle on Saturday, the action continued Sunday morning. A few buddies of mine hopped in my Nissan Versa and trekked up I-79 for the hour long journey to Pittsburgh.

 

VIPpf.jpgPirate Fest opened its doors at noon, we arrived around 12:30. The snaking line extended well past the gates, a surprising sight for my friends Marc, Jared and Richard.

PirateFest 028.JPGThe cost of admission was originally $12 bucks, however we caught a break. A father with a son had four extra “VIP” passes  (which literally meant nothing) he sold them to us for $5 dollars. Scalping tickets to Pirate Fest? Heck yeah!

We rushed to the autograph line where we first hit former Pirate El Roy Face, pitcher Charlie Morton and catcher Ryan Doumit.

PirateFest 034.JPG They’re nice young guys and Jared’s two favorite Pirate players.

Later in the day we came back for another round of autographs.

Firstbaseman/right fielder Garrett Jones and third baseman Neil Walker signed along side another former Pirate in Jim Rooker. It looks like Penguin Sergei Gonchar joined in on the festivities. The Pens were actually playing across town, hosting the Red Wings. Many fans adorning Penguins gear were at the fest and the Penguins won in an epic shootout. The game was playing on an HDTV at a booth.  

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Although the lines were fairly long, we waited in the lines for nearly an hour each time, it was a fun time. We talked to some cool people around us and I got major flack from an elderly man for wearing my Barry Bonds jersey.

One of my favorite parts of Pirate Fest are the memorabilla tables.

PirateFest 037.JPGThis table was filled with just Roberto Clemente stuff. From cereal boxes to buttons to an autographed baseball with a 10,000 dollar price tag. I cam away with a cool Pirates poster from the 90’s, a 1989 game program and some packs of 2010 Topps baseball cards.

Pirate Fest is also a great time to meet some very cool people associated with the team.

 

PirateFest 043.JPGI did meet him on Tuesday but seeing Andrew McCutchen rocking out on Guitar Hero was pretty cool. The guy in the black Cutch shirt was getting owned by the star centerfielder. I think this is a cool picture, considering their both rockin’ the 22.

PirateFest 046.JPGOne of the most bubbly, entergetic and fun people associated with the Pirates is Joe Klimchak. He is famous for his commercials for the Pirates where he mimmicks the “Shamwow” guy. They are very funny and do the job. He is also the in-game host at PNC Park. He hosts the between inning shin digs and brings a good vibe to the ballpark.

The best moment of the day and perhaps my entire life around baseball was meeting General Manager Neil Huntington.

 

PirateFest 045.JPGIt was a very personal time with Jared and I speaking to the GM for a good five minutes. He was standing in the concession stand area just mingling with some fans. He was very genuine and came across like a strong minded individual. After getting a cool snapshot I gave an ill attempt at a joke saying “We just made a deal and I’m the new fifth starter.” Neil really didn’t laugh and Jared just thought I was stupid. It was a good segway into a discussion regarding who the fifth starter for the Bucs. It is a race between Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen-he talked highly of both and really believes the competition will bring out the best in the two young guns.

Jared brought up his former affiliation with the Cleveland Indians, Jared’s favorite team. He is excited for manager Manny Acta to take over and think he deserved the job. He made a point that Terry Francona and Joe Torre were not successful in their first two managerial positions and that the change of scenery will be good for a younger manager with potential.

Talk around Pittsburgh has been heated with Pirates debate. It was reported that Penguins owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle have made an offer to Pirates owner Bob Nutting in an attempt to buy the team. It is a hot button issue that probably won’t go anywhere but it has given Pittsburghers false hope. I’m torn on the matter, obviously the Pens are a better run franchise and Mario may perhaps be the face of Pittsburgh sports history. However, because of the market size and baseball regulations, not much would change. It would be cool to have a Pittsburgh cable sports channel broadcasting the Pens/Pirates and other local teams to bring in more revenue than FSN Pittsburgh does already.

While I did not want to bring this up when talking to Mr. Huntington he did cite a similiar position. He said the key for small market teams is too avoid injuries as well as big, bad contracts. While it is easy to say with Lemieux/Burkle the Pirates could spend more money, will they spend it wisely? I don’t just want millions thrown at top free agents to lock them in for multiple years. Currently, Neil is allocating the money properly stocking up with high level prospects who the Pirates have control over for many years at a small cost. It is a risk, but will prove to be rewarded just a few years down the road.

Now that the ownership tangent is over, we made two more stops in the ‘Burgh. Here are pictures from our Steel City travels.

panther.jpgReaders, you know my disdain for the University of Pittsburgh, it is well-documented. We rode into the Oakland section of Pitsburgh and had a self guided tour of the campus. We walked through the basketball arena and stopped by the famous Cathedral of Learning. I hate to say it, but Pitt is a very nice campus. However, it is my civic duty as a Mountaineer to hate everything regarding our bitter rivals. On Wednesday the Panthers come to Morgantown for a battle of top ten college basketball game.

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Before departing back to the Mountain State one final stop had to be made, PNC Park. I honored Willie Stargell the only way I knew how, bowing down. Pops would have been a great player to watch back in the day. He is one of three Pirates honored with statues, with a fourth on the way. It was announced at Pirate Fest that a Bill Mazeroski statue will be erected later this season.

 

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The field was just feet in front of me but the dang metal bars were seperating me from happiness. It was still a cool moment enjoying PNC Park at its calmest. It truly is the most beautiful park in baseball and to be able to regularly attend games here is an awesome feeling. I am spoiled that this is my home park and I can watch a major league baseball games at a great price in a beautiful setting.

 

With February upon us and winter nearly over, actually its not but hey, we can hope, that could mean just one thing.

 

opening day tix2010.jpgOPENING DAY IS JUST TWO MONTHS AWAY! (bought my tickets at Pirate Fest)

I wasn’t the only proud Bucco mlblogger enjoying the fest, check out these blogs for more about the weekend event.

http://kristylovesherbuccos.mlblogs.com/

http://countingbaseballs.mlblogs.com/

http://section316.mlblogs.com